Over the course of a few short weeks, WWE was able to turn the WWE Championship from a major title that was on par, or even above, RAW’s Universal Championship, into a second-rate joke. The booking for the Universal Title was bad, and even though Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho were supremely entertaining in their “best friends” role, it wasn’t enough to make anybody really care about the new championship. WWE was trying to shoehorn the Big Red Belt into being perceived as the most important belt on the company’s flagship show, and it just was not happening. There was no intrigue, there was no passion, there was no intensity. A few guys wanted the title and showed a little bit of fire here and there while trying to obtain it, but the two men holding the belt hostage were too busy playing grab-ass and making jokes while keeping the championship safe with a fairly low amount of effort.
To be clear, Jericho and Owens as best friends was superlative television and a lot of fun to watch. It was simply not the right place or the right time. Their silly characters were not the men to do the job of making a brand new, ugly-looking title with no lineage and a dopey name into something important. If the belt was already established, it would have worked. But it wasn’t, so it didn’t.
At the same time, the WWE Championship on SmackDown Live was flourishing. AJ Styles was the champion. He carried the brand on his back like a champion to be proud of and the fans treated him like a big fucking deal.
That’s because he is a big fucking deal, obviously, but let’s not get off track.
AJ’s challengers were presented as big players who were legitimate threats and wanted his title. Yes, there was a lot of goofy crap with James Ellsworth, but it was all within the realm of Dean Ambrose fucking with the champion and trying to piss him off. The title was already established and there was a strong champion with a challenger who hadn’t yet been pushed off a cliff by bad booking. There was also John Cena, and that name speaks for itself.
In short, the WWE Championship was important. The champion thought it was the most important thing in the world and his challengers felt the same way. They even had the added bonus of John Cena chasing the title in order to tie the record held by Ric Flair. The Big Black Belt on SmackDown Live was a meaningful championship to fight for.
But then things started to go downhill. Fast. John Cena lost the title to Bray Wyatt in the Elimination Chamber match. That was a good thing.
It was also the last good thing that has happened to the WWE Championship.
From the moment Bray became the champion, it was obvious that he was holding it for Randy Orton. There were some side odds that saw Luke Harper slipping into the equation to allow Bray to hold onto it for a little bit longer, and even a couple weeks of good TV that saw AJ Styles and Luke Harper fighting over being the number one contender to a title that didn’t have one.
It goes back to the Royal Rumble. Randy Orton won the match, and his victory was met with moderate lethargy from the crowd. It wasn’t a wet fart in church by any means because the crowd cared about Orton thanks to a solid few months of interactions as a makeshift member of the Wyatt Family. It was clear, however, that the people wanted to see Bray leave San Antonio with a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania in his hands. They didn’t get that, and it was disappointing.
So Bray wins the title inside the chamber, and Orton comes out and declares his devotion to his master, claiming that he would never challenge him for the championship, and was therefore relinquishing his opportunity for a title match at WrestleMania. That led to the pointless exchange between AJ Styles and Luke Harper, but at least we got some good matches out of it.
Surprise, surprise, though — it turns out that it was a ruse all along, and Randy was just infiltrating the Wyatt Family to play mind games. Of course when you think about it, when Orton originally joined the group there was no end to justify the means. Bray wasn’t the WWE Champion, and he wasn’t even close enough to sniff the belt. Did Orton join just because he didn’t want to get beat up any longer? Did Brock’s ass whipping of him at SummerSlam concuss him to the point that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing? Who knows. The point is that Orton joined the Wyatt Family and there was no solid reasoning for him to do so. I guess he was tired of getting bested by Wyatt and wanted to have the element of surprise when he finally revealed that he was never actually part of the group. That was stupid from the onset, however. There should have been no way in hell that Bray Wyatt, who is supposed to be extremely cunning and wildly intelligent, would ever be fooled by Randy Orton. He should have known better.
I could sit here and write a thousand words about why the entire scenario of Orton joining the Wyatt Family was a dead-end story from the start and I don’t really feel like doing that. Maybe some other time.
Back on point — there was no way that Randy had any idea that somewhere down the line, Bray was going to become the WWE Champion. I mean, maybe that part of it was just a little bit of extra icing on the cake? Randy must have wanted to turn on Wyatt just before WrestleMania in order to get himself a WrestleMania moment… or something… and it just so happened that he won the Royal Rumble and Bray won the title that he would be challenging for. Happenstance, obviously. More plot holes in their sordid tale than potholes in streets of New York City.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt had a cataclysmically bad match at WrestleMania, and then the “superstar shakeup” happened and Bray wound up in a rematch with Randy, just without the title on the line. That made no sense, but whatever. Bigger picture, man!
The bigger picture is a gigantic portrait of a jacked Indian dude who calls himself the Maharajah.
Jinder Mahal returned to WWE with a completely transformed body and a mean (possibly a little bit constipated) look on his face. And he was immediately slotted right back into the role he was playing before he was let go. He showed up, got booed a little bit, then got beat up and pinned by the good guy. Upper card good guy, lower card good guy, it didn’t matter. Jinder Mahal was brought back as weekly enhancement talent.
Then he knocked the shit out of Finn Balor. He went on to be handily defeated by Balor, and soon after ended up on SmackDown as part of the aforementioned superstar shakeup. Then, out of the fucking blue, he became the number one contender to Randy Orton’s WWE Championship.
This happened a little while before the non-title rematch between Orton and Wyatt. In fact at the time of that match Jinder actually had possession of the physical championship belt, which he had stolen from Orton. He would go on to use said belt to cost Orton the match, allegedly adding heat to their upcoming title confrontation at Backlash.
The WWE Championship is in a downward spiral. Randy Orton won the belt on April 2, and here we are, May 20, and he hasn’t defended the belt one time on television. It’s not like he’s Brock Lesnar and is off TV — he’s there week-in and week-out, but the title is just a piece of black leather that he carries around with him. He didn’t even seem to give much of a crap when it was stolen from him. It’s almost like he feels that it’s just a burden.
Maybe a hindrance.
And you know who that title won’t hinder? It won’t hinder Jinder. That motherfucker wants to be WWE Champion in the worst way. Orton won the belt because it was made available to him while he was embroiled within a more important personal conflict. He’s a 13-time champion and doesn’t appear to even realize that he’s supposed to be the top guy on SmackDown Live.
Jinder Mahal very, very badly wants to be the champion and he really wants to be the top guy on SmackDown Live.
Give the man the damn belt and run with it. What’s the worst that could happen? Bad ratings? Low attendance at live events? Those are problems that WWE already has, and the current champion is a supposedly established main event superstar. It doesn’t matter who holds the title. Put the god damned thing on Primo Colon, for christ’s sake, and attendance and ratings would still be just as flat as they are now.
Or, maybe things will improve slightly because it’s something different. It’s completely out of nowhere, and isn’t likely to supply us with any amount of good wrestling matches, and Jinder’s character is a played out “you all hate me because I’m different” stereotype, but it’s not just more of the same.
I don’t care about attendance, or TV ratings, WWE’s bottom line or anything like that. None of it matters to me. I do care about being entertained by their weekly programming. Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion is completely untested waters, and who knows where they could go with it? I’d put the Tag Titles on the Singh Brothers too. Just because. Make them the damn dominant faction on SmackDown Live and see what happens. Why not? If it bombs, it bombs. It’s not going to hurt anybody or harm the credibility of the title.
Also, people will probably bitch and complain about it if Jinder leaves Chicago as champion tomorrow night. And those complaints will be run to read.